The capital of Iceland is not a large city, but we found that even 4 days in Reykjavik was not quite enough to explore all it has to offer. Reykjavík is the northern most capital city in the world, and with a population of 120,000 it is actually pretty large. We used our time in Reykjavík to explore the city, as well has places short distances from it.
Like other Scandinavian countries, Iceland is not a cheap place to visit, and that was most evident to us when booking accommodations. Good hotels were outside our price range and we weren’t wanting to stay in a hostel this trip. We turned to AirBnB and found this adorable 1 bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood near iconic Hallgrímskirkja church. I would absolutely recommend staying here if you find yourself in Reykjavík! We stayed at this AirBnB listing.
When we visited Reykjavík we found Airbnb to be the best value. If you want to save $40 on your first airbnb stay, you can sign up here using our discount code.
Some of Jakes family flew in for a couple days of days. They stayed at Fosshotel Reykjavík, which was in a convenient location featured a nice breakfast. If you are looking for a more budget friendly option then you could check out I Sleep Reykjavik or use the search engine below to scout the best deals in Reykjavík.
After landing in the early morning we picked up our car (read more about how to rent a car in Iceland) at GreenMotion. We got lost and eventually ended up at our first destination, the Blue Lagoon. You can read more about our experience visiting the Blue Lagoon after a red eye flight.
- Open: Varies on the time of year, but generally 8AM-10PM
- Ticket Cost: Starts at €40 in winter and €50 in summer
- Website: Blue Lagoon
After the Blue Lagoon we found a cafe so we could connect to internet and find our AirBnB apartment. We quickly learned that Iceland takes their coffee seriously! The sizes were much smaller than the super sized American sizes we are use to. The coffee selections were also fewer, but better. Kaffitar became our ‘go to’ hang out spot in Reykjavik and we also got to enjoy their brews at various gas stations around Iceland on our road trip.
After getting situated in our apartment, we walked around the neighborhood. Frakkastígur is a popular place for locals to hang out at nightclubs, restaurants or for visitors to get some shopping in. Just up the road was the lovely Hallgrímskirkja church.You can take an elevator to the top of Hallgrímskirkja Tower and see panoramic views of the area, but the line was quite long at the time we visited. Plan on getting there early, they open at 9 AM. We grabbed a waffle from the nearby food cart and watched the sunset, ending our first day in Iceland.
- Hours: (October-May) 9AM-5PM, (June-September) 9AM-9PM, church service Sundays at 11AM
- Ticket Cost: Free to enter, tower admission is 900 ISK for adults, 100 ISK for 7-14 yrs old
- Website: Hallgrímskirkja
The forecast for the Aurora Borealis was fair, so we decided to do some Northern Lights hunting that night. We used this site frequently to check the KP index (how active the lights are) as well as the cloud coverage. We experienced multiple times where the KP index was really high but the weather was awful so we couldn’t see anything. We ended up heading north and found ourselves in a very rural area with just an occasional sheep farm. This is where you want to be to see the Northern Lights! Unfortunately we didn’t see them that time, but we did get some nice pictures of the night sky.
Visiting the Höfði House
We didn’t know what this building was when we stopped here, only that it looked like it must have been important. The house is popular for two reasons; namely as it being the meeting place between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev during the 1986 Reykjavík Summit. This meeting was a crucial moment in preventing the Cold War from being something much worse.
Mighty heartbeat of the ocean’s cold depths my strength and peace I drink from your sound.” from Surf
The Höfði house was also home to one of Icelands’ great poets; Einar Benediktsson. The house was interesting to see, but it doesn’t appear that you can actually go inside unless you rent it out for an event. There is a lot of information you can read outside though, which makes it worth stopping at if you are nearby.
- Open: Always
- Website: Höfði House
Reykjavík Maritime Museum
The Reykjavík Maritime Museum is right on the water and if you choose you can also take a guided tour of the retired Coast Guard vessel called Óðinn. The museum was interesting and we learned a lot of history. However, our favorite part of the visit was easily exploring Óðinn. Our small group of 4 was the only one on the last tour of the day, so it was very personal. We really enjoyed our guide and we learned about the Cod War and what life on the sea in the North Atlantic was like. I would absolutely recommend this tour, even if you don’t think you have an interest in it you will probably be surprised!
- Hours: Open daily from 10AM-5PM, Óðinn tours at 1PM, 2PM and 3PM daily
- Ticket Cost: 1500 ISK for admission (free for <18 yrs) and 1200 ISK for the guided tour
- Website: Reykjavík Maritime Museum
Grocery Shopping in Reykjavík
We checked out a local supermarket to get supplies for our AirBnB. The only supermarket chains we consistently saw were Bónus and Krónan. Shopping in a local supermarket gives such an interesting perspective when visiting a foreign country and it’s something we always try to do.
Authentic Icelandic Dinner at Þrír Frakkar
We ate dinner at Þrír Frakkar, an authentic Icelandic seafood restaurant which was recommended to us by Fosshotel Reykjavík. Authentic Icelandic food isn’t for the faint of heart. Because of how isolated and cold the country is they had to use what resources they had, which often was meat. And meat that we aren’t exactly use to.
Items on the menu included some mellow options like a variety of fresh fish, seabirds, lamb and delicious fish hash. Also on the menu were more adventurous items such as puffin, fin whale and even horse. Someone at our table did order the whale, which I took a bite of to say that I did. It wasn’t awful, but I don’t think I would try it again because I actually adore whales.
- Hours: (Mon-Fri) 11:30-2:30PM and 6PM-10PM, (Sat/Sun) 6PM-11PM
- Cost: Entrees start at 3900 ISK
- Website: Þrír Frakkar (click on the flag in bottom right to change to English)
Icelandic Phallological Museum
Our third day in Reykjavík took us to one of the more quirky attractions; The Icelandic Phallological Museum. AKA, the Penis Museum. I have to admit, it was actually a little disturbing! I’m a nurse, so I’m not shy when it comes to anatomy, but being in a museum that reeked of formaldehyde and surrounded by penises taller than me was a little nausea-inducing. My favorite part of the museum was actually the souvenir shop, which was full of innuendos and hilarious trinkets.
- Hours: (May-Sept) 10AM-6PM (Oct-Apr) 11AM-6PM
- Ticket Cost: 1250 ISK/per person
- Website: Icelandic Phallological Museum
Reykjavik 871 +/- 2 The Settlement Exhibition
There is a great difference between what men are born into the world for and what they become known for” -from The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes
The Settlement Exhibition tells the story of the first Viking settlement in Iceland in the year 871 (plus or minus 2 years). The museum is built around the original settlement that was excavated in 2001. As you walk around where the primary structure lies it will tell you the story of what each area in the building was likely used for a what life in 871 looked like for the first settlers in Iceland.
The history is absolutely fascinating and the museum captured our attention for close to 2 hours. There are audio guides that are available as well, but we just read the descriptions which are in English and Icelandic. If you appreciate history than you should definitely check this museum out. It is conveniently located in downtown Reykjavík near cool shops, restaurants and the best hotdogs we have ever tried.
It will prove true that if we tear apart the laws we will also tear apart the peace.” -from The Book of Icelanders
In the same location the Settlement Sagas are held as well, which you can view separately or with a combined ticket. The Sagas of Icelanders are a very important part of Icelandic history. They are the equivalence of importance to Icelanders as the Declaration of Independence is to Americans. The sagas date back to the 9th-11th centuries. The 4 sagas on display include:
- The Book of Settlements (Landnámabók)
- The Book of the Icelanders (Íslendingabók)
- The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes (Kjalnesingasaga)
- The Laws of Later Iceland (Jónsbók)
- Hours: Daily from 9AM-8PM
- Ticket Cost: Settlement Exhibition- 1400 ISK, Settlement Sagas- 1000 ISK, Combined ticket- 2200 ISK
- Website: Reykjavik 871 +/- 2
The Sun Voyager (Sólfarið)
A visit to Reykjavík wouldn’t be complete without a stroll along the waterfront and viewing the iconic Sun Voyager statue. We had driven by the Sun Voyager many times along the busy Sæbraut Road, but walking along the path by the sea gives you a different perspective. The views of the mountains on one side and the city on the other was really beautiful.
Your final day in Reykjavík is best spent out of Reykjavík. A visit to Iceland would not be complete without seeing the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle includes Þingvellir National Park, Haukadalur Valley to see the Strokkur geysir and Gulfoss waterfall.
Aside from the Blue Lagoon it is one of the most popular activities in Iceland, and it is so for a reason. Getting out of the city will afford you views of the gorgeous countryside, as well as some more unique natural attractions in Iceland such as geothermal hot springs and waterfalls. You can read about our entire experience driving the Golden Circle.
- Þingvellir National Park: Visiting center hours (Apr-Oct; 9AM-6PM, Nov-Mar; 9AM-5PM)
- Haukadalur Valley Geysirs: Hours (?) unable to find. We visited after 5PM and the restaurant was closed but you could visit the gift shop still and entrance to the the park is free
- Gulfoss Waterfall: The waterfall is always open and restaurant (great soup!) is open from 9AM-9PM daily
As you can see there is more than enough in Reykjavík and the surrounding area to fill your time. 4 days was not nearly enough time to explore everything this amazing city has to offer!
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Have you been to the capital of Iceland before? Is it a dream destination for you? Let us know in the comments below!